Whiz Kid: Black History Month Essay Winners

White Plains and Peekskill student essays won the Peekskill Field Library's Black History Month essay contest.

Whiz Kids: Harshal Shet and Ursula Jones


Harshal Shet, a 7th grader from White Plains and Ursula Jones, a tenth grader from Peekskill High School, wrote essays that were selected as the winners of the They were asked to write essays about African-Americans who influenced their lives and who contributed to society. Both students wrote insightful essays about people who deserve recognition for their accomplishments and contributions to society. Shet wrote about Dr. Maya Angelou and Jones wrote about her father and how he raised her (read their essays below). Both won passes to the United Artist theater at the

Key to Awesomeness: Read for yourself in their essays below.

Black History Month: Dr. Maya Angelou, by Harshal Shet

Marguerite Johnson (now Dr. Maya Angelou) was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. daughter of her parents Bailey Johnson and Vivian Baxter Johnson. She received the first part of her now famous name (Maya Angelou) from her older brother and the second part from one of her husbands. At the beginning, she did not have an easy beginning. She suffered a lot, lost home and experienced an episode of abuse that resulted in tragedy. She took dance and drama lessons. As a teenager, her love for the dance won her a scholarship to study dance. At 14, she became a first African-American female cable car conductor and later she graduated from high school.

In 1954 and 1955, she toured Europe with a production of the opera Porgy and Bess. In 1957, she recorded her first album, Calypso Lady. In 1958, she moved to New York, where she joined the Harlem Writers Guild, acted in the historic Off-Broadway production of Jean Genet's “The Blacks.”

She read and studied number of languages, mastering French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and the West African language. In 1964, she met Malcolm X and returned to United States to help him build his new Organization of African American Unity. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked her to serve as a Northern Coordinator. She wrote number of screenplays and composed music. She has served on two presidential committees, was awarded the prestigious Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000, and received 3 Grammy Awards. She has been awarded over thirty honorary degrees. Recently, on January 14, 2012, she received BET Award.

She is truly a very inspirational African-American woman. Her words and actions continue to stir our souls, energize our bodies, liberate our minds, and heal our hearts.


Ursula Jones' essay is attached to this article as a PDF.


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